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Swing States: The Deciding Factors in Elections

With the upcoming election, it is very fitting to be studying the mechanics and workings of elections and the presidency in government class this trimester. I recently found an article that discusses Obama’s support of same-sex marriage and the effects that his support on the issue has on swing states. Swing states are vital in Presidential elections because in many cases, they ultimately determine the outcome of the race. This recent news and the start of Obama campaigning brings me back to our study in the elections unit, specifically on electoral strategy.

The process to get elected President is a complex and complicated procedure that requires the strategy and assistance of many. President Obama must decide where to focus his campaigning, what issues to focus on, and what audience to target. Ultimately, it comes down to campaigning in swing states that will determine the outcome of the election. Swing states are states that are not solid Republican states nor solid Democrat states. They are states that have not consistently voted one party over the years, but rather, have switched parties throughout the year. Candidates, therefore, have a better chance in persuading swing states to vote for them.

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In order to fully understand the electoral strategy and the importance of swing states, we must first look further into the Electoral College. The Electoral College is the system used in the United States to select the President and Vice president. In this system, electors are chosen to represent each state and political party and vote on the presidency. The presidential candidate must win the majority of electoral votes in a state in order to win that entire state. This is not a popular vote where every vote counts. In the Electoral College, it is a “winner takes all” method, where even though the vote may be just about equal among the candidates, the majority wins the entire state, disregarding all the other votes. This explains the significance of swing states. In such states, the support for a particular political party is about evenly split, allowing each candidate the opportunity to win over enough votes to pull through and win the state. Candidates campaign aggressively in these states because every vote counts, and a couple of votes could win them the entire state.

Many factors are taken into consideration when determining how to best capture the votes of swing states. In the article, the author discusses the effect Obama’s decision to openly support gay marriage will have on swing states, and if it will help or hurt his chance of winning them over. The author identifies 11 swing states. He proposes that Obama has a good chance of losing North Carolina to the Republican’s due to the recent pass of banning gay marriage in North Carolina, and Obama’s support of gay-marriage. About 60% of people in North Carolina oppose gay marriage. Florida and Ohio also pose as potential threats to Obama on the issue of same-sex marriage. Obama’s support over this issue will draw support from some, and opposition from others. I believe that his decision will have a large influence on swing states. As these present threats to his success in re-election, he has begun working to win over supporters.

Obama has already begun campaigning for re-election. Through his visits, one can see how the electoral strategy and swing votes influence his campaigning techniques. He has been making special visits to college campuses in swing states. For example, Obama has visited the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado, and University of Iowa, all three of which are swing states. I found that very interesting and smart of him, because a large percentage of support in the 2008 election came from young voters. By visiting those schools he is targeting those young perspective voters. Some states are predictable and unchangeable, yet others could decide the outcome of the election.

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Obama speaking to college students at UNC

Many people feel that the extended attention on swing states is unfair to all the other states that would like to be equally informed and have the same exposure to candidates. What do you think about candidate’s special attention on swing states?

Style Is Key: The Makings of Campaign Commercials

April 26, 2012 5 comments

In Government class this trimester we examined the broad topic of elections, a topic I found very interesting due to its relevance with the upcoming election. Perhaps the most intriguing topic in this unit for me was the study of campaign commercials. Before this assignment, I made note of the campaign commercials, however, never considered their effectiveness, and furthermore, how they accomplished the message they strive to communicate to the American public. The campaign commercials captivated my attention primarily because they are not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of elections. When I think of elections, what comes to mind is televised debates and speeches made by candidates. The study of campaign commercials showed the diverse realms and tactics used in elections to promote a candidate.

In today’s society, campaign commercials prove to be one of the most heavily weighted forms of promoting a candidate. Media has become tremendously more prevalent in society, and a powerful 30-second ad can quickly communicate ideals and beliefs a president holds without having to tune in to watch an hour-long debate. Political expert Arthur Sanders sums up the importance of campaign commercials over all other sources of media by stating, “Ideally, you’d rather have (voters) paying attention to debates. But they don’t. That’s why people use TV ads. They are the most powerful way still to reach voters who are only paying limited attention to a campaign. … People who see TV ads usually end up knowing more about candidates than people who don’t.”

In an increasingly fast pace world, a 30-60 second commercial tends to be significantly more appealing than a two hour debate.

Before this assignment, the time and careful planning it takes to create these commercials never crossed my mind. After completing the assignment and critically analyzing these commercials, I came to a general conclusion on how these commercials are created. I believe that in order to make an effective campaign commercial, one must first consider what the message or topic is that is to be communicated to the audience. Next, they must consider whom they are targeting. In other words, who is the audience? This is important because the style to create the commercial is based off of age group and general audience, as different tactics appeal to different crowds. Once the audience is established, they must consider how the idea will be communicated. What will the cinematic style be, and what method will they focus on the most? Persuasion, factual information, or emotional appeal?

The ultimate goal of campaign commercials is to draw support for a candidate, and that is accomplished in a variety of ways. Personally, the videos that I found most impactful were those that had a unique stylistic approach. As it can be concluded, the commercials with a person simply speaking about what they will do in the future or what they have done is quite boring and causes many to lose interest. I believe that the cinematic style is the most important aspect of campaign commercials. While others may argue that persuasion is key, I believe that in order to effectively persuade the audience, the commercial must be interesting and captivating as the ads are commonly less than a minute. They must quickly grab your attention, therefore relying first on the stylistic aspect. Music, voice-overs, images, and layouts are all examples of cinematic factors. Often images are much more impactful, powerful and memorable than a person simply speaking about an issue. Cinematic style is also key in properly addressing and engaging audience. For example, a more creative and modern style is used to target the younger generation, as they will respond and relate better to it. I think the persuasion, factual, and emotional results experienced are built off of the foundational cinematic style. In other words, an emotion may be evoked based on the degree of successfulness of utilizing stylistic approaches.

For example, Obama’s “Yes We Can” campaign commercial effectively puts to use a unique cinematic style. Taking one of Obama’s speeches and having it spoken and sung by others, while at the same time reinforcing Obama’s campaign slogan, “yes we can”, was a tool that was very successful. This was not only very interesting, it was memorable and successfully summed up his platform through the use of music, as well as the video image of Obama’s speeches. The two factors of his factual speech and interesting style together made the commercial particularly powerful. With an interesting and unique style, you will want to watch the video again, and possibly even share it with friends, and that is exactly what the candidates want: exposure.

Visit the linked website to further study campaign commercials and the large range of styles and tactics used to communicate ideas.

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